About this blog

This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Like 'Inception', only lower budget (Review: 'Doctor Who' 34.X, "Last Christmas")

Clara is preparing for a Christmas without Danny Pink when suddenly something crashes on her roof; and it's not the TARDIS.

  • The Doctor was wonderfully crabby in this episode (pun intended). Mind you, Capaldi's 'costume' has hardly featured in full; this is a Doctor far more comfortable in a hoodie than a formal shirt.
  • Keeping it unclear whether Clara was staying or going until the end of the episode definitely added things to this. Mind you, the old person make up was unconvincing.
  • Nick Frost did a fun performance as Santa; I can see why the final shot was like so. Mind you, I'm not sure Ian and Wolf really added much to the proceedings and the CGI budget didn't stretch to more than three reindeer.
  • I like it when a show is open about its influences and that's a brilliant joke about Alien, which is arguably a trope in science fiction in general that Doctor Who has done much to try to correct.
  • So, what was real and what wasn't? They made it clear early on not to trust your senses. Mind you... [If you say 'Mind you' one more time, I'll delete your Star Citizen screenshots - Ed.]
  • Good to see Danny Pink again; it gave some further closure to the character. M... sorry, I'm not sure we actually needed that though.
  • I actually have had dreams where I know that I'm dreaming. Mind you, I've had some weird ones in my time.
  • This is a show that doesn't need graphic special effects to do chilling horror. The dialogue doesit just fine.
  • Of the guest characters, I have to say I liked Shona best. We need more like her.
  • So, "The Magican's Apprentice", eh? I wonder who that could be?


Somewhat of a slow starter, but the ending was very good.


Friday, 12 December 2014

Place this on the Very Good shelf (Review: 'The Librarians' 1.1, "...And the Crown of King Arthur" and 1.2, "...And the Sword in the Stone")

As I've probably mentioned before, I spent five years at secondary school as a pupil librarian... and in that whole time, I never met one who looked like Rachel Weisz. Or for that matter Noah Wyle.

So, naturally, I have an interest in things bibliothèque, as they say in the French Republic.
Back in the last decade, Noah Wyle (ER, Falling Skies) starred in three TV movies as Flynn Carsen, a nerd with more degrees than I've had pints of lager who gets a magical invitation to interview to become a librarian at the Metropolitan Public Library. Not just a librarian, but The Librarian, keeper of The Library, a secret underground storage facility for magical artefacts like the Ark of the Covenant too dangerous to be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. The movies got repeated fairly frequently on Sky1, but I never had a reason to watch them until now.
I watched the first a while back and the second two before watching this, hence the delay in this going up. I found the first good but not brilliant, highly enjoyed the second and will say that Stana Katic adds considerable bite (pun fully intended) to a very good third.

When I saw that TNT were making a series following up the movies, I decided to make a reservation. Seeing Christan Kane (Elliot in Leverage) and Lindy Booth in the cast attracted me... the fact that former Victoria's Secret model turned actor Rebecca Romijn was in it completely passed me by - I've only ever seen one X-Men movie and Mystique really didn't make that big an impression on me. While Noah Wyle is in this, he is only a recurrer, due to his commitments to the fifth and final season of Falling Skies, handing lead duties to Romijn.

This two part opener sees all-action NATO counter-terrorism agent Colonel Eve Baird (Romijn) run into The Librarian while on a mission in Berlin; both having to defuse deadly devices at the same time. Afterwards, she gets a magical white envelope inviting her to join The Library, where she becomes The Guardian, the tactical specialist whose job it is to look after Carsen and serve as the common sense to his "head in the clouds". The show's producers worked on Leverage between movies and series, sticking in a good number of Doctor Who references and Carsen is basically a full-blown one. While the James Bond/Indiana Jones/The Doctor fusion pre-dates Matt Smith's Eleventh version of the last by six years, Carsen is an Eleven expy here, down to a penchant for bow ties and tweed jacket - in fact, I wonder if Carsen influenced the Moff in creating Eleven. Not that there is anything wrong with that... although it's a good thing he's a recurrer, as it does start to grate after a while.

Investigating the mysterious death of someone in the public area of the Metropolitan Public Library, they learn that the evil Serpent Brotherhood (which does include a Dark Action Girl, parking a suitably evil British accent as well as the guy who played Dr. Leekie in Orphan Black) has been killing off the top other candidates from when Carsen got the job ten years earlier. They discover that three are still alive and go to collect them, embarking on a mission to stop the Brotherhood from destroying the world.


The plot allows for the setting up of the main premise of the show quite easily - as well as eliminating two expensive guest star fees from the outgoings, not to mention removing the need for a considerable amount of CGI in the Library proper. We get the by-now-standard plot for this franchises, which involves finding the location of a mysterious dangerous artefact, then getting to said artefact before the bad guys can use it to do nasty things.

Baird's job is basically to kick backside, deal with authorities and wear a blonde top knot; I found myself reminded of Clara, albeit with more punchiness. The other characters, all straight-up geniuses:
  • Cassandra: The synthesia (and brain tumour - this is important to the plot) packing maths genius, she's definitely the heart of the team and while she doesn't have a great start, she's adorable in her own way. Booth does an excellent job here.
  • Jacob: A Mid-Western oil worker who is secretly an art historian, Christian Kane is essentially reprising his Elliot role; not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Eziekel: The professional thief of the trio, his appetite for nicking stuff that isn't nailed down might lead to plot problems later.

The CGI effects in this are very good and en par with the stuff Doctor Who does on a weekly basis; but not being the BBC means that they're probably going to have to limit themselves a tad.

This is a very, very funny show - it doesn't take itself hugely seriously and willingly lampshades its own ridiculousness (prosciutto blowtorch anyone?), with good quotes a plenty.


The first half is pretty awesome; the second while still good, starts to get a bit predictable. I'm reminded of Steven Moffat-era Doctor Who more than anything else and while this shows clear promise, it remains to be seen if it will fulfil that. I hope and think it will.


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Three candidates for Extraordinary General Coordinator election

Following the closure of nominations for the vacant position of General Coordinator, three candidates have accepted being put forward for the position:

  • Dale "SoapyMac"
  • Misty "Misty Wilson" - the current Acting General Coordinator
  • Giorgio "Ksabers"
 Campaigning is now ongoing and the elections will be held on 19 December - 2 January.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Waltz with Bassam (Grand Review: 'Tyrant' Season 1)


Howard Gordon has had a busy year, depending on what he actually did as executive producer, one of the most meaningless titles in showbusiness. With 24: Live Another Day, Homeland season 4, 24: India and Legends with him holding the credit... and this, it's clear that the Emmy-winner is clearly setting out his stake in the espionage/intrigue world.

And this series, which aims to combine high politics ad family drama with a thought-provoking view on the whole Arab Spring thing.

(This review contains spoilers)

Pasadena-based paediatrician Barry al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) is enjoying his life with his wife Molly and their two children when he is invited to visit the Middle Eastern republic of Abbudin for the wedding of his nephew. This is no ordinary nephew and Barry, or to use his full name, Bassam, is no ordinary guy. You see, he's the second son of the country's autocratic President, who has a penchant for dealing with rebels the violent way, including as we learn later, via poison gas attacks. Barry has been away for 20 years, while his older brother and heir apparent, Jamal, has been enjoying power and raping women just because he can.

The wedding of a nephew I'm calling "Arab Chumlee" goes off without a terrorist attack, but there is a bit of drunken firearms discharge... and it's clear that Arab Chumlee is turning out a bit like his dad. However, his father dies and Jamal becomes President, albeit after a car accident where one of his latest victims performs a groin attack.

Barry decides to stay and try to moderate Jamal's rule, a task made harder when a spot of self-immolation sets off an Arab Spring-style uprising. Then things get more complex...

This is an interesting story; while it's saying nothing that someone with a half-decent knowledge of Middle Eastern politics wouldn't really know already (the Americans prefer stability over democracy, the leaders are jerks and the alternative might be worse), we get a fairly gripping story with more than a few twists and turns along the way... and some US viewers probably need the education. One is reminded of Game of Thrones, in the "you win or you die" sense rather than the nudity everywhere sense (every episode aired on FX aired with a content warning for at least violence); characters do die frequently and no-one is probably safe, with the probable exception of the frankly dodgy US Ambassador. In addition, the title sequence is clear intended to invoke that show/ It's a pity we don't get more detail on Abbudin; I have no idea of its size, overall history etc. At least we get an actual flag for it!
The key focus of my attention is Jamal (Ashraf Barhom); inspired by Uday Hussein, he combines a firm desire to stay in power with being completely sadistic and evil. At times, he practically sprays his lines and while I've not had nightmares about him, you can imagine he might cause a few.

Adam Rayner caught a considerable amount of flak for being, well, white - his character's arc is interesting and we can clearly see that he has a complex back story. However, he's not the best thing in this one by far - and if the cliffhanger goes the opposite way to what I'm thinking, the show might be better without him.

The kids are annoying and mercifully sidelined fairly quickly... Jennifer Finnigan's Molly really just exists to be the blonde woman in the low-cut dresses, while Molly's sister really needs a lesson in appropriate dressing while in the Middle East... this ain't a bare your midriff land at all!


Renewed for a second series, it will be interesting to see where this goes for that. Enjoyable definitely, but needs further work.

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